WASHINGTON D.C. – Imperial Irrigation District and Imperial County officials participated in a congressional briefing today with federal, state and local officials on the current progress and future potential of the Salton Sea. The briefing was hosted by Sen. Barbara Boxer.
Opening remarks were made by Reps. Juan Vargas (CA-51) and Raul Ruiz (CA-36).
IID General Manager Kevin Kelley was one of several participants on a panel that reviewed the history of the sea and the local, state and federal efforts to develop a shared vision of its future. He joined panelists Anne Castle, assistant secretary for Water and Science, U.S. Department of the Interior; Keali’i Bright, deputy secretary for legislation, California Natural Resources Agency; Roger Shintaku, general manager, Salton Sea Authority; and Pervaze A. Sheikh, specialist in natural resources policy, Congressional Research Service.
Said Vargas: “I am excited to co-host the briefing with Sen. Boxer and Congressman Ruiz on the opportunities and challenges facing the Salton Sea. Finding viable restoration options for this uniquely situated body of water is a priority for me. I look forward to continuing to work with local, state and federal stakeholders to provide the necessary resources to stabilize the salinity levels, restore the wildlife and habitat and explore the economic development opportunities.”
In 2013, IID and the county of Imperial announced a partnership in the Salton Sea Restoration & Renewable Energy Initiative. The initiative calls for leveraging funds generated by new renewable energy projects located at the sea to help finance activities for air quality management, habitat restoration and creating a sustainable sea.
Projects sited on exposed lakebed will serve a dual purpose: producing renewable energy while doubling as groundcover to mitigate air emissions. Under legislation enacted in 2013, planning and implementing projects at the sea will be driven locally by the Salton Sea Authority, with support from the state of California.
The initiative will first focus on developing up to 1,700 megawatts of new geothermal energy at the sea – enough to power more than one million homes. It would provide a steady, reliable source of energy to the state electricity grid that is not subject to weather or seasonal fluctuations.
In a separate action today, IID Board President James C. Hanks, who also serves as president of the Salton Sea Authority, signed a 10-year Memorandum of Understanding on behalf of the Authority with the Department of Interior that calls for collaboration and exchange of technical and scientific information regarding the resources of the Salton Sea, demonstrating cooperation between local and national officials and representatives.
“The decline of the Salton Sea’s size, water quality and habitat will reach a tipping point after 2017, when mitigation flows to the Salton Sea cease and the local impacts of the largest agriculture-to-urban water conservation and transfer program rapidly materialize,” Hanks said. “It’s important that we do all we can now. By helping the sea, we protect the Imperial Valley and the region.”
Authority member and Imperial County Supervisor Ryan Kelley said, “There is a lot of work to be done to solve the Salton Sea issues. I am encouraged by the meetings we have had in Washington, D.C. and I look forward to developing the partnership with our federal agencies.”
The Salton Sea Authority is a joint powers authority, comprised of IID, Imperial County, Riverside County, the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians and the Coachella Valley Water District.